From Fear to Freedom

From Fear to Freedom in Non-Monogamy & Open Relating

by Candice Leigh

The more I have explored open relating, non monogamy and living from an authentic and powerful place in my relationships, the more I have realized that to the extent and ability I have to face my own fears is the cornerstone on where truth and love have an honest platform to flourish, grow and exist. What do I mean by this? Well, for one I believe that what we fear has energetic weight and magnetism; therefore, this magnet or vibration will attract the exact person, people or situations to give us the choice to either fold, fight or find freedom.

We have an infinite number of choices in any scenario but these three seem the most prevalent, quite similar to how our nervous systems handle trauma on any level…and let’s face it…love and relating to others can sometimes seem traumatic.

Choice #1: Folding.

This is when we just dip out, check out of the relationship or conversation, stone wall or dissociate even though our bodies may still physically be there. We may find the fear, content or triggers that the relationship, dynamic or encounter brings up is too great for our bodies or nervous systems to handle, resulting in pushing the partner away, creating distance and essentially letting the charge or the magnetism of the connection dissolve by using time and space as distancing tools. There are times and places to choose this and I have chosen this dozens of times in my past. This is also very different to setting boundaries; this is avoiding even the conversation about talking about boundaries or digging deep into finding out what we actually need or doing the inner work to know what our boundaries are in the first place.

What we gain by this choice: space and time…until we are ready to fully face the fear, or we never do and stay the same, hopefully taking responsibility for our life as we know it. The fear won’t go away, but the form that the fear will come in will be coming back around. Guaranteed. Sometimes we need the breathing space and are still holding onto our small perception of ourself, and that is fine.

What we lose: the deeper lesson and soul growth available when we start to step into our power, true and deep intimacy available when we show up to a connection fully and powerfully.

Choice #2: Fighting.

This tactic uses more complicated and fancy tools to engage in the dynamic, such as projection, blaming, giving our power away, combatting power struggles, giving the other people or persons the weight of being “responsible” for our inner conflicts, choices, challenges, pain, wounds and feelings. We fight like hell to hold onto the egoic sense of self and our “rightness” as we make them “wrong”. What we are really fighting is not the other person, but our shadow. Yes, our shadow or our inner child that feels defenseless, unseen, or is being triggered outside of us in the form of our partner or mirror. We may not have the skills or wherewithal to be truly vulnerable yet or ready to dismantle our identify as we have known it. We may not fully trust our partner to be able to actually hold us in our surrendered state, so we fight even going there completely; thus containing our vulnerability. We may see ourselves as the “good guy” that doesn’t deserve this “treatment” from our “wrong” partners or we may see ourselves, whether we admit it to ourselves or not as the “bad” or “wrong” one that isn’t truly worthy of love. To ensure that we are correct in our thinking we aren’t worthy of love, we fight being loved and create some kind of conflict or scenario that would affirm this. We fight, self sabotage, resist the unknown, resist our fear and ourselves and so what we resist…persists. What we may also do is fight the connection, diminish it in some way so we don’t have to take responsibility for how deeply we actually do or could care about the relationship or the person. We grapple with our fear that it won’t last or we won’t be loved back.

What we gain by this choice: we may come into contact with more vitality and surge than our folding experience. We may start to tap into our power and feel it rumble and invigorate us. Our needs and voices may start to be heard, firstly to ourselves which can be a powerful place on the path and more powerful when we start to express this to our partners. We may not get it completely right, but we at least are willing to play the game—even if it really is a game about confronting our inner fears, shadows and demons first. We may start to find our true boundaries and what is worth fighting for and a deeper sense of self worth.

What we lose: the deeper truth and vulnerability under the fighting, the realization that our fears can safely be held by ourselves and the intimacy with ourselves the deeper we are able to be with our fears and find self regulation tools, self love and self nurturing.

Choice #3: Find Freedom.

This is the choice when we directly head in the direction of our fears. To do this we must have our fears illuminated into conscious awareness. The more we can label them for exactly for what they are and get to know them, the more we can consciously face them. We can’t face anything if we don’t even know or understand what we are facing.

Common fears to Intimacy/Authentic and Open Relating/Non-Monogamy:

1. I am not enough (and if my partner has desires beyond me or other lovers besides me—then this fear must be true)

2. I am not special (If I was special, my partner would only desire me, so the fact they desire other things or people must make this fear true)

3. Fear of Abandonment (my partner will leave me or choose someone else over me…I’ll end up alone)

4. My partner(s) won’t be there for me (So what’s the point?)

5. I’m going to get hurt (I just know it—the hurt will outweigh ways I will grow, so I don’t want to engage)

Do any of these resonate? They all do to me! Either presently, or at sometime in the past and I am certain they will all swing around in the future to deepen this self growth available through love, partnership and relationship.

So now that there is a list of fears to work with, now we can start to challenge them!

I had a beautiful lesson in open relating with both the fears of “I am not enough” and “I am not special” when I started dating a guy who had another lover named CANDICE. How can we both have the same name? How can there be two of us? This triggered me like crazy, until I did deeper work on myself with it. (I actually now have two lovers with the same name…and this happened to me once a few years ago…the meaning of this…I’m still unclear!) This was the epitome of my fear coming up to be looked at, self love to be found and for the fear to start to dissolve. I used all three of the choices, starting from the first one. I folded and disappeared and just thought it was too much to face, created distance and just didn’t want to participate anymore. I realized that this actually didn’t help me feel powerful in myself and it actually made me feel weak, so the next tool I tried was fighting. I fought both the connection to that partner and fought and blamed him for my feelings of not feeling special. How could I even be “special” if I didn’t even have my own unique name? I blamed him, made him wrong for not “choosing just me” (whatever the hell that even means) and judged him for being “immature” and “irresponsible”. What I was actually doing was projecting the exact qualities that I was acting out, fearful of seeing or owning in myself onto him. This too did not feel like the solution that brought me what I actually did want…

What happened next brought me power, understanding, connection and freedom.

I investigated this fear. What if I’m not special? Can I be “un-special”? Can I see myself as not “unique”? I started to confront my shadow and my need of being “special and unique” with seeing myself as regular, ordinary, basic and common. The more I started to let myself feel that this fear was true, the less I had anything to fight against. Ok, here I am…basic and ordinary. Could it be possible to love and accept myself still?

What I found was…yes. Yes I can accept myself and love myself as a neutral being on the planet, not special and just ordinary. I started to gain refuge, humility and strength in this new truth, also my desire for deeper service to others grew. How could a commoner help a fellow commoner? After accepting this as true, I also started to realize that it wasn’t true! Or that it could be both! A sublime paradox: I’m not unique and I also am. I can live with that! I can find power and humor in this! I found my “specialness” and “uniqueness” from an internal place—-making the way the lover saw me or choose me completely start to be irrelevant. It wasn’t that his vision of me didn’t matter, but the light had been turned on from within and it was the light to my freedom and my inner power of true recognition and understanding that: I HAVE A CHOICE.

Another big and beautiful lesson that came that exploded the fears of “being abandoned and my partners won’t be there for me” was when both of my lovers at the time went out of town with their other lovers. I was also sick with a cold and hardly could get out of bed that weekend. Nothing to do to distract me from facing the fear that had quite literally manifested because I technically was alone and they weren’t there to bring me soup or offer me care. I felt like clawing myself out that experience! I wanted to escape! I wanted to blame them and see the situation as a TOTAL INJUSTICE! I was pissed off, sick, alone and on my high horse! I felt really jealous, for their health and having a great time out of town and probably having great sex. I went deeply into the feelings and didn’t really have a choice otherwise. I now see that weekend in bed with two situations compounding as now a triumph that I got through. I saw myself take care of myself and love myself and know that I needed to just rest, be with my shadow feelings and go deeper into it. I was eventually able to find compersion, or the happiness and joy available to oneself by feeling that for another’s happiness and joy. Yet again, I needed to face those pieces in me in order to find strength in how I can love myself when the perception of abandonment happens externally. The more I have found the impossible choice to ever ABANDON MYSELF, the less this could be possible from others. Just another opportunity to learn how to love myself and be tender with myself. Also, my cold left, my health came back, my lovers came back and are still in my life. Abandonment and the illusion of abandonment is the true teacher.

So the last fear: What if I get hurt?

This is the one that I have found to be the trickiest, and frankly must tell you the truth. Hurt WILL happen and we may never be “safe” from the repercussions of what it means to live with an open heart. Maybe in the end, or several times along the way, just like with any form of relationship. No dynamic or love story could possibly leave all characters unscathed, unchanged. This is the powerful alchemy of love itself…to show us where we have room to grow, love more, heal our wounds or the past…

Questions I like to ask myself…

Am I able to care for myself while I am in this relationship?

Do I feel comfortable enough to ask for my needs?

Do I need certain boundaries to keep this dynamic going forward? Are they respected?

Was the love worth it?

Is LOVE in general worth it?

Do I believe in my own capacity to heal through anything?

Do I have resources, tools, friends and family that support me if/when I am hurting?

Do I trust in the seasons and cycles of life to transition me over and over to heal me?

Will love, connection, intimacy and trust keep calling me back?

Will love outweigh everything else?

Is loving another worth it?

Is being loved by another worth it?

The only answer that has ever felt honest enough for me has been a resounding, both loud and soft, pleasurable and painful, delightful and tiring, forever existing in paradox…

fuck yes.

Candice Hammack